"He makes it really easy on you as a coach because he has tremendous football instincts," Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said. "Things come really naturally to him. He doesn't have to see things too many times. He has a good sense for how things should look and feel, and he's a tough, physical guy."
Kyle Kalis and Henry Poggi
Henry, it seemed like Jim challenged you guys after week one about physicality and being more physical. Have you kind of taken that to heart and you’re making strides there?
“Yeah, I think so. I think just the way we play, we want to bring a lot of physicality every game. You know, the biggest thing is just progressing week to week, so every practice, every rep, just trying to be more physical.”
Henry, the fullbacks and H-backs are a lot more involved than they used to be in past years. What is the conversation like each week when you guys are trying to figure out if you have a mismatch or the coaches want to get you involved in the game?
“You know, I think it’s just gameplan. I don’t know if it’s anything specifically like a conversation with us. I think it’s like the flow of the game, who’s playing well, who’s not. We’ve got so many guys who can do so many different things I think it’s just really who’s playing well that day.”
Kyle, how much did you guys as an offensive line learn and take from that Utah game and how far have you progressed?
“I think a lot. I mean, obviously Utah, as you’ve all seen over the past couple of weeks, they’re a really good team and we played good against them. Obviously we could have played better, but the thing was just going back that next week and just the way we practiced, our practice style. And a big thing too, I want to give props to our D-line. I mean, our D-line is incredible, and us getting to go against those guys every day, that is huge for us to be able to get ready for games where we have players like we have. That’s a huge part of it, just going against our guys and our work ethic.”
Kyle, Jim said last week you graded out at 90%. He said you had another good game Saturday. What’s gone well for you the last couple games?
“Just having fun. I mean, football’s fun for me. Getting to go out there and practice every day is a privilege, and I see it that way. I don’t know. I’m just playing good.”
[After THE JUMP: More Kalis and Poggi, and Jarrod Wilson]
9/26/2015 – Michigan 31, BYU 0 – 3-1
HALP [Eric Upchurch]
"We were dominated in every facet, their defense over our offense. Every guy, every play. That thing was a shellshock, from the first snap right though the last."
–BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae, 2015
"If you put a pit bull in a ring with a chihuahua, don't expect the chihuahua to win."
-former PSU WR Chafie Fields, 2006
The last time something like this happened, Alan Branch sent Anthony Morelli to the sidelines muttering about pudding. The year was 2006; Michigan's defense was a flamethrower of a thing. Dudes from it still litter NFL rosters: Branch, Lamarr Woodley, David Harris, Leon Hall, hell, Ryan Mundy. Each level of the defense had an NFL Pro Bowler on it. Lloyd Carr had finally, agonizingly made a switch from Jim Herrmann to Ron English, and things took off.
This was right after 2005, the 7-5 year one idiot Michigan fan dubbed "the year of infinite pain" because the worst thing that had ever happened to him as a sports fan was a light pillow buffeting followed by off-brand ice cream. That year Michigan had coughed up all manner of leads in all manner of ways, culminating in the infamous punt from the Ohio State 34 and the nigh-effortless OSU drive to win that followed. That was a jarring thing, the first gray hair emerging from the program's ear.
Adapting to the reality of the 2006 defense's otherworldliness was gradual, and then sudden. The Penn State game was the seventh that season, and only then was it crystal clear that what was going on was not the usual. It took just four games this season to start wondering about a repeat.
It's hard not to when BYU's coaches are wandering around wondering what blew their clothes off, when their quarterback comes to regard the pocket like it's the Mines of Moria. Here there be Balrogs. A full two-deep of them.
Here's the numbers stuff. Michigan's third in the country in yards per play allowed, behind
- a Boston College team that started the season off with Florida State… and Howard, Maine, and Northern Illinois
- a Kent State team that's only in the conversation because it held Delaware State (remember them?) to –33 yards.
Michigan hasn't given up more than 337 yards in a game; two teams barely crested 100 yards and a third used a fourth-quarter drive to get over 200. The one team that moved the ball a bit on them, Utah, just atomized Oregon. S&P has Michigan fourth. (FEI does not update until week seven.) Michigan's already acquired 32 TFLs, 8th nationally on a per-play basis. Again they are mostly behind teams who scheduled Random Assemblage Of Ants In Helmets State. By any measure Michigan has established itself one of the nation's top defenses a month into the season.
A month is not a year. A number is just a number. But these numbers reflect what we've seen when Michigan has rolled out onto the field. They go seven deep on the defensive line. They have an All-American corner and two more guys coming on, and oh also Jabrill Peppers.
Aside from some blips in coverage against Oregon State none of the results have felt at all fortunate. In fact big chunks of the yards acquired have been batted passes still caught or sacks miraculously spun out of, with a side of NFL throws made under extreme duress. This level of performance is not sustainable, but only because we are currently peeved when the opponent scrapes into triple digits.
Any reasonably sane projection we're in on. We will also consider slightly insane ones.
That 2006 defense sprung leaks. We got a taste of it a couple weeks before Football Armageddon when Michigan ran out to a big lead against Ball State and rested the starters. Johnny Sears fell over a lot, Ball State scored, and scored again, and soon the starters were in desperately trying to prevent a potential tying touchdown in the waning moments.
That was Akron before Akron, and if you want to point a finger to the exact moment when a paranoid observer would have started building a bomb shelter, that was it. The soon-to-be 2007 secondary faced a jankety MAC spread and collapsed.
A couple weeks alter Michigan would go the whole game against soon-to-be Heisman winner Troy Smith with a 4-3 on the field against a spread offense. Chris Graham tried to cover Tony Gonzalez, a future first round draft pick at wide receiver. It went poorly. Michigan gave up 42 points. A couple months later Michigan shut down USC for a half; in the locker room Pete Carroll told his offensive coordinator to stop running the damn ball. USC ripped off 29 second-half points.
2006's Achilles heel—they had one great cornerback, one okay one, and nothing else—was in retrospect obvious but it took a long time to find anyway.
One may be on the way here, but it's hard to figure out what it might be. The spread ineptness that haunted Michigan's manball administrations for a decade and a half is emphatically out the door. If the thing you're exploiting against this secondary is the third and fourth corners on fly routes down the sideline, good luck. If there's an ACHILLES OUT OF NOWHERE here it's probably the sudden degradation of the defensive line if and when they face elite opposition. Even the occasionally iffy linebacker play will probably be fine against the kind of team that seeks to test Michigan there.
And I can't see that happening. We head back to precedents in an attempt to communicate how something feels. It is possible we're not going quite far enough back for this one.
And from the BYU perspective:
Come back here young man who is older than me [Upchurch]
Yet To Be Named Harbaugh-Themed Guys Who Did Good Award.
you're the man now, dog
#1 Ryan Glasgow has somehow not featured on these lists yet. It says all you need to know about Michigan's faith in him that they decided to spend most of the day in dime with 5 or 6 guys in the box. Glasgow collected his usual TFL or two and was the linchpin of a 2.0 YPC performance in the most attractive circumstances possible for a rushing offense.
#2 Jabrill Peppers had his usual TFL, threw a BYU receiver to the ground with authority at the end of the first half, was not beaten in coverage, played (sort of) tiny WLB much of the day, spooked Tanner Mangum into a fumble on one particular blitz, and had two near-electric punt returns. Also, fair catches.
#3 De'Veon Smith ripped off this week's Who's Got It Better Than Us and thundered over 100 yards in the first half. It feels sort of wrong to put any offensive player on this list after that D performance, but I mean… yeah.
Honorable mention: All defensive persons. Darboh.
5: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State)
3: Jake Butt (#1 Utah), Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV), De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State, #3 BYU), Ryan Glasgow (#1 BYU).
2: Ty Isaac(#2 UNLV), Jabrill Peppers(#2 BYU).
1: Willie Henry (#3 Utah), AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State), Channing Stribling(#3 UNLV)
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
Absolutely brutal decision this week but have to go with De'Veon Smith teleporting through a pile of players and then posterizing the same defensive back twice.
Honorable mention: Amara Darboh's OBJ impression. Every defensive snap save approximately three of them.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
BYU scrapes over 100 total yards on their last drive.
Honorable mention: Rudock doesn't see the fact that Jehu Chesson's guy has fallen down on the first snap. Michigan gets stuffed on a fourth down in the second half. Blake O'Neill goes rogue on a 4th and 16 punt fake.
Utah: circle route pick six.
Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust.
UNLV: Rudock matches 2014 INT total in game 3.
BYU: BYU manages to get to triple digit yards in the last minutes of the game.
[After the JUMP: I AM FEELING QUITE POSITIVE THIS WEEK YES SIR]
Upon Further Review still has a sponsor.
I've been informed to emphasize the rates and accessibility of your loan guy and not so much the pants. I do feel that the pants are an excellent metaphor for those aspects of going with Homesure Lending. But I do as I am told. Also, Matt tells his kids to go to bed at 6 PM so you know he's not to be messed around with.
FORMATION NOTES: This is the "diamond" formation referenced below:
Michigan showed this more than they ran it, often motioning a TE to the side the FB was on.
Meanwhile your weird thing of the week was Tom Strobel, OL:
He is outside of "right tackle" Patrick Kugler with Cole lined up outside of him. This was a failed fourth down conversion that in retrospect probably would have been a touchdown if Smith hadn't fallen over untouched.
As for UNLV was pretty typical:
They spent the day with between 8 and 10 men in the box. Plays on which a safety was at least 10 yards deep were conservative ones.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Starting line was as expected. From left to right he second team line was Bushell-Beatty, Dawson, Kugler, walk-on Ben Pliska, and Bars. Kugler got a couple of snaps with the first team when Michigan went to a goofy seven-man line in the third Q. Tom Strobel, wearing 50, also got in on those plays.
The rest of the rotation was pretty much as before. Smith was the lead back backed up by Isaac and Johnson in that order; Green did not get in until the final drive. It was mostly Kerridge at FB until he got hurt; not much AJ Williams at TE, almost all Butt and Poggi.
Moe Ways got more playing time at WR, but there were not a ton of WR snaps to go around.
[After THE JUMP: selling out on the interior]
Via a Utah beat writer. I put it in a table. Returning starters are bolded.
|QB||Jake Rudock OR
|Alex Malzone OR
|RB||De'Veon Smith||Derrick Green OR
|Karan Higdon OR
|FB||Joe Kerridge||Sione Houma OR
|TE||Jake Butt||Khalid Hill OR
|WR||Amara Darboh OR
|WR||Jehu Chesson OR
|LT||Mason Cole||Logan Tuley-Tillman|
|LG||Ben Braden||David Dawson|
|C||Graham Glasgow||Patrick Kugler||Ben Pliska|
|RG||Kyle Kalis||Juwan Bushell-Beatty|
|RT||Eric Magnuson||Blake Bars|
|DE||Willie Henry||Taco Charlton|
|NT||Ryan Glasgow||Maurice Hurst|
|DT||Chris Wormley OR
|BUCK||Mario Ojemudia||Royce Jenkins-Stone||Lawrence Marshall|
|ILB||Desmond Morgan||Ben Gedeon||Mike McCray|
|ILB||Joe Bolden||James Ross|
|OLB||James Ross||Allen Gant|
|CB||Jourdan Lewis||Jeremy Clark|
|CB||Channing Stribling||Brandon Watson|
|FS||Jarrod Wilson||Delano Hill|
|SS||Jabrill Peppers||Dymonte Thomas OR
|K||Kenny Allen OR
|P||Kenny Allen OR
|LS||Scott Sypniewski||Andrew Robinson|
|H||Blake O'Neill OR
|KO||Kenny Allen OR
|KR||Jehu Chesson OR
|PR||Jehu Chesson OR
Uh, what? Part one. Willie Henry, strongside end, with Wormley back at DT. On the one hand, Henry has a lot of grrr arrgh pass rush upside. On the other, I thought he was better suited on the interior than Wormley for the reasons I posted today.
Uh, what? Part two. Channing Stribling is listed as the starter opposite Jourdan Lewis. This is odd for a number of reasons. One: Stribling didn't get a call last year even when Gary Nova was going off on Blake Countess. Two: we have heard nothing about him in about a year. Three: they moved Jeremy Clark to corner, and the assumption was that maybe that was not so much a good sign for Stribling.
If this is real, and all depth charts have to be looked at somewhat skeptically, I'm actually rather happy. Stribling looked about as good as Lewis as a freshman before evaporating.
Okay dot gif. The OR at QB. On the other hand, Smith had enough of the starting RB job that they didn't give him one at one of the most OR-tastic spots on the roster.
Poggi at FB. Weird. 266, reputed to be an inline blocking TE. Expected Hill and Poggi to be flipped. Good that Hill's done enough this fall to catch Harbaugh's eye.
No Drake Johnson. Still recovering from injury.
Grant Perry realness check. Good sign for his jitter and reliability that he's an option on returns.
The sweetest or. OR Drake Harris. I want to believe.
Ross an ILB backup and OLB starter. An indication that he will get snaps in the nickel.
|Joe Kerridge||Sr.*||Khalid Hill||So.*||AJ Williams||Sr.||Jake Butt||Jr.|
|Sione Houma||Sr.||Chase Winovich||So.*||Henry Poggi||So.*||Ian Bunting||Fr.*|
|Nick Volk||Fr.*||Ty Isaac||So.*||TJ Wheatley||Fr.||Jabrill Peppers||Fr.*|
"Tight End and Friends" debuted as a separate post in the preview a couple years ago when Al Borges started packing his roster with tons of slightly different blocky/catchy types; last year I went with it despite the OC changeover because there were a lot of dudes here anyway, and hooooo boy did that bet pay off when Harbaugh came into town.
Here is your now-annual reminder of what I mean by these various positions. (I've replaced the Borges-specific "U-back" terminology with the standard "H-back," FWIW.)
- FULLBACK: a man with a steel plated head who runs into linebackers, gets two carries in his career, and has six catches. See: Kevin Dudley.
- H-BACK: A "move" tight end who motions all about, rarely lines up on the actual line of scrimmage, often goes from fullback to a flared spot or vice versa, and operates as more of a receiver than the fullback. Must be a credible threat to LBs; ends career with 40 catches. See: Aaron Shea.
- TIGHT END: Larger than the H-back, the tight end is a tight end who is actually tight to the end of the line. He comes out, lines up next to a tackle, helps him win blocks, and clobberates linebackers at the second level. He goes out into patterns as well, and may end his career with 40 catches himself. See: Tyler Ecker, Kevin Koger.
- FLEX: Big enough to play on the end of the line credibly. Agile enough to play H-back credibly. Not great at either. Capable of splitting out wide and threatening the secondary. Sacrifices some blocking for explosiveness. Can be a prime receiving threat. See: Tyler Eifert, Devin Funchess if he could block.
And of course many of these people bleed into other categories. Think of these position designations as Gaussian distributions in close proximity to each other.
TIGHT END AND FLEX
"Jake is as good a prospect as we've coached at the college level," Harbaugh said. "We've produced a lot of great players in college at the spot and it's vital to our success."
Not only did Jim Harbaugh bring out a Ross-Perot-sized chart that said "BUTT == ERTZ == FLEENER," he talked the like the gotdanged queen of England while doing so. And then emphasized that if you, kid, if you are not Ertz/Fleener Voltron that the whole gotdanged enterprise is liable to collapse 'pon itself.
JAKE BUTT is like… okay.
Butt recovered from an ACL tear suffered in 2014 spring practice to play in ten games and make 21 catches as a true sophomore. Now fully healthy in an offense without Devin Funchess and with Jim Harbaugh, every Michigan fan expects him to blow up.
This preview concurs. Butt is the kind of player Harbaugh has used to befuddle opposing defenses for years: the flex tight end. Michigan hasn't really had one since I've been paying attention. They tried to make Funchess one but gave up and made him a receiver. Michigan fans will be most familiar with the endless parade of Notre Dame flex TEs who were equally comfortable lining up in-line, outside, or in the slot. They were all named "Tyler" or "Chad" or "Austin" or something and they posed tough questions for cornerbacks they dwarfed and safeties and linebackers they could outrun.
That's Butt. He is a huge-radius target with a number of one-handed stabs to his credit already and the athleticism to blaze for 70 yards on a screen against Ohio State as a freshman. After his freshman year, Mike Spath got this quote from an anonymous opponent:
"We played them late in the year, and [Butt] was someone that was really tough to defend. He's incredibly athletic. He made a catch against us that not that many receivers even make, so he has great hands. There weren't a lot of great tight ends in our league last year, so he could be the best this season."
Sometimes he just hangs out on the ground catching footballs one handed and oh hey there ma'am I did not see you why yes I have been working out how nice of you to notice
A little work from today.. pic.twitter.com/jOmzgujgmg
— jake butt (@JBooty_88) July 9, 2015
Perhaps we could get some gelato.
[After THE JUMP: High expectations, lower expectations, and an endless parade of blocky/catchy.]
[I forgot to turn my recorder on right away because I’m a doofus but the question was about Northwestern]
“I was very, very pleased with our players in that game and I have been for a while, and you know that. Our kids, they went out and they executed the gameplan and they played extremely hard. Didn’t matter where. They had their backs to the wall and they stayed in there strong, and that’s just kind of how they’ve been and i was just really happy for them because they really believe, they really want to be good and they’re starting to get some reward from it.”
When did you hear about Frank’s arrest and what was your reaction to it?
“Well, I heard about it I guess yesterday but Brady handles all that. And my reaction is always when a young man that is in your program that you’re very, very close to when something happens like this you feel very, very disappointed and you feel sad for the people that are involved and that’s about it.”
Brady was just talking about all the adversity you guys have gone through this year and how maybe he’s grown a little bit and learned from it as a coach. You’ve known him for 30 years. Have you seen it affect him, or how has he grown from this season?
“You know, I mentioned it before and that’s a great question. When you believe so much in a program like he does and like our staff does and you give everything you have to the program like he does, when things don’t go exactly like you want them to that’s hard. That’s hard, man. And I haven’t seen him- he never wavers. He’s the same guy every morning when he comes in. He’s the same guy when he dresses the players. Like I said before, I think he's done a tremendous job as the head football coach with some of the things that have happened."
Jake's [Ryan] preparation is evident when you see him on the field. I understand that you guys watch a lot of film together. Talk about how you've watched him grow as a student of the game and talk about how he goes about that [preparation].
"Well, I was fortunate enough. I think the first year I was here I had Jake, and he met in our staff room together and I said, 'Okay, let's go ahead and sit down and we'll start on film' and I looked and he was sitting in Brady's chair and I said, 'What are you doing!? You can't sit in that chair!' Well from that day on he's always sat in that chair. And Jake Ryan is a pleasure to coach, just like Joe Bolden is, just like- I could name a lot of guys in all they years I've coached. When you have guys who come to work every day like they do, and they come in those meeting rooms and you start showing film and you start talking about your opponent and they react and they study and they start taking notes like our guys do; then you feel really good about coaching. Jake's just one of those guys that you think about it [and] outside linebacker, that's all he'd ever played and we talked about it and said, 'Hey, listen. We're going to put you in the middle because we want you around the football a lot more. We want you to make sure that you're involved in it; that they can't run away from you' and in his senior year he does it. And he plays hard and unselfish and does everything you ask him to do and that's Michigan. That's what we hope this program's all about and we think there's a lot of players like that in this program."
[After THE JUMP: Thoughts on Maryland and the defensive line]